Stag’s Take – Gameweek 10
Like a Ruben Loftus-Cheek hat-trick, I’m sure those of you accustomed to digesting this column with your Friday breakfast thought this column was never going to arrive. Alas, the world is a weird place and it has come. My own real football team, as opposed to my fantasy football team, will be without me for a number of weeks owing to an ankle injury – today was dedicated to getting that prognosis.
Fortunately, the barren Gameweek 9 and a busy midweek European schedule have given us quite a few talking points to consider even this late in the week. Principle amongst them is… Arsenal.
Arsenal are actually good but perhaps doing unsustainably well, but they are an FPL nightmare
There is no way communicate the new reality more succinctly than the above title. I felt like I had crossed into an alternative universe watching The Gunners clinically dispense with Leicester City at the Emirates, inspired by Mesut Ozil and substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Was that the German’s best performance in an Arsenal shirt? Possibly. What’s certain is that it was by far his strongest performance of the Emery era. His xG for the game was just 0.07, suggesting his goal, an exquisite first-touch finish, may well be a statistical anomaly we shouldn’t expect again soon. His assist for the second and delightful flicks for the third though are much more “Ozil". He created four chances, two of which were big chances, resulting in a healthy 12 point haul.
Aubameyang is a particularly difficult one. He, like many of the elite assets, has been culpable for frustrating hundreds of thousands of FPL managers for consecutive gameweeks this season. Furthermore, he isn’t even a starter for Arsenal right now, coming off the bench to register 57 minutes played in the last two gameweeks but scoring four times in that period. He has now been directly involved in 21 goals in his 22 Premier League games for Arsenal (16 goals, five assists) – ridiculous. At the start of the season, I pinned my hopes on the Gabonese international and got nothing but frustration in return. 10.8 strikes me as too much to spend for a player who isn’t guaranteed to play every week – but is that even the case now? Will he be starting again now?
One could say the whole entire Arsenal debate is pointless at this point. They may have won 11 games in all competitions in a row, but few of those encounters were “real” tests. Statistically, they were actually fortunate to beat Watford, Newcastle United, Everton and Cardiff City. Calling this “fortune” is based on their low expected goals tally, just 13.38 when they have actually found the net 22 times. The closest team to them in terms of xG over-performance is Leicester, who have about 4.5 more goals than you’d expect. As a frightening aside, Man. City are only just over-performing with 26 goals from an xG of 24.72. Arsenal fans will tell me to ignore the stats and that they have superior finishers, but Man City… With poor fixtures coming (three of the Top Six plus Wolves in their next six) and uncertainty reigning over who actually is a good Arsenal asset, the underlying stats perhaps outline a justified argument that there are pastures elsewhere which can lead to green arrows.
In this column a week ago, I wrote a lot about Xherdan Shaqiri’s chance to impress for Liverpool in the absence of a few midfield players. Well, injuries continue to plague the Reds and the Swiss international will be ensconced in Jurgen Klopp’s starting eleven again this weekend – he’s doing so well it could become a permanent situation.
In Shaq, Liverpool have a player who can link defence and attack in a way that they have lacked since Coutinho left and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain got injured. He’s not just a playmaker, he’s a dribbler, who can draw defenders by running at them and create extra space. That can be particularly important against low blocks and on days when Liverpool’s frontmen can’t conjure up goals alone – like GW9 when Shaqiri assisted Salah. In the midweek Champions League win over Red Star, the ex-Bayern man was even more influential, especially in the first half where it seemed he was needed to spark every move Liverpool made. He assisted Salah for Liverpool’s second goal, and perhaps he can be partially thanked for the Egyptian’s revival in fortunes.
Yes, indeed. Mo Salah is back. Or is he? Salah’s underlying statistics were always promising throughout his blank patch, his confidence doesn’t seem to have completely returned yet, but the goals have. For those of you who have Salah, of course you should hold him, and perhaps captain him. For the rest (of us), the decision is tougher and one of personal preference.
Eden’s injury Hazard
If managers of Europa League teams held press conferences on a Friday, perhaps the Salah decision would have been a lot easier for many managers. Eden Hazard is an injury doubt for The Blues’ trip north to Burnley on Sunday. It’s usually not a good strategy to leave 11.4 in value on the bench, unless it will burn up your team value that is. Those of you who had Hazard early for 10.5 or a bit more could stand to wipe 0.3 or 0.4 off your team value if you sell him for just a week – be careful!
Flimsy, floundering Fulham
Earlier in this article, I was looking at expected goals and highlighting the potential that Arsenal’s goalscoring would have to slow down a bit. The good news is that Fulham actually lead the league for expected goals conceded and goals conceded, meaning that we can be statistically certain that their defence is as bad as it looks. Captaining a player when they play against Fulham, even if that is a striker playing for a previously winless team, is genuinely a good idea.
With that in mind, The Cottagers welcome Bournemouth to their splendid residence on the Thames on Saturday. The question is – King or Wilson, King and Wilson? I can’t decide…yet – see the Captaincy Corner to follow. If you don’t want a forward, look at David Brooks or Ryan Fraser. Both men are stationed on the wings typically and will be facing two full-backs who have been found too far up the pitch constantly this term. The young Welshman has a habit of ghosting into the box whilst Fraser is more about fashioning his own chances.
Mo Salah (Cardiff H)
The reigning Golden Boot winner is back scoring goals and Liverpool seem to have shaken themselves out of their sluggish patch again after thrashing Red Star at home during the week. Salah’s haul could be aided by a penalty too – with James Milner ruled out, Salah is on spot-kick duty for The Reds, who face a team who have conceded the joint-most penalties (3) in the division. Sol Bamba’s presence is particularly helpful in this.
Callum Wilson (Fulham A)
As stated in the article, no defence is worse than Fulham’s in the Premier League currently. Meanwhile, Callum Wilson has been dependably scoring for Bournemouth, much more reliably than his equally brilliant teammate Josh King. The uncapped Englishman shades it over the Twitter meme-Englishman for me based on that consistency, plus the fact that he shades the actually-Norwegian in terms of xG and xA in the last four games. His heat map also shows a lot more activity in the box than King, which bodes well for getting in promising positions against the porous promoted side.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Crystal Palace A)
There are so few imbalanced match-ups this week that the was almost no other good option for the captaincy unless you fancy one of the two sides in the Spurs-Man City game on Monday. PEA’s record is second to none since he arrived in England, yet he is not consistently convincing either. This captaincy section has underlined even more strongly to me just how dramatic the effects could be of a Salah haul in GW10.
Stag has been providing #FPL Tips since July 2015 and has been a contributor for Rotoworld.com since August 2016. He is a self-proclaimed wannabe fantasy football genius, a student, and die-hard tea enthusiast.